The FDA’s overhaul of the Nutrition Facts panel misses a public health opportunity by prohibiting firms from evening highlighting long chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA on the panel on a voluntary basis, says GOED, the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega‐3s.
While the FDA notes that a review it conducted in 2004 found there was “supportive, but not conclusive, research” to suggest EPA and DHA may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, it says listing them on the Nutrition Facts panel is not very useful because there are no established dietary reference intakes (DRIs) for EPA and DHA, while their role in reducing chronic disease risk is not “well-established”.
Growing body of evidence supports the cardiovascular benefits of EPA and DHA
But the data suggests otherwise, according to regulatory & scientific affairs VP Harry B. Rice, PhD: “Given that the last authoritative scientific review of EPA and DHA was over ten years ago… GOED respectfully disagrees that there is a ‘lack of well-established evidence for a role of n-3 … polyunsaturated fatty acids in chronic disease risk’.
In fact, a large and growing body of evidence supports the cardiovascular benefits of EPA and DHA, says Dr Rice, while at 113mg/day, US intakes of EPA and DHA are well below recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (250mg/day).
In a formal comment on the FDA proposals - which among other things recommend removing vitamins A and C as mandatory listed micronutrients and replacing them with vitamin D and potassium - GOED urges the agency to at least include EPA and DHA on the list of ‘non-statutory nutrients’ firms will be allowed to list on the panel on a voluntary basis.
US intakes of EPA and DHA are well below recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines
As the FDA (click HERE ) itself notes, says Dr Rice, “The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee concluded that moderate evidence shows that the consumption of two servings of seafood per week, which provides an average of 250 mg/day of EPA and DHA is associated with reduced cardiac mortality from coronary heart disease or sudden deaths, both in persons with and without cardiovascular disease.”
Indeed, the first sentence of the ‘Nutrients of Concern’ section of the guidelines says that intakes of seafood - a key source of EPA & DHA - are lower than recommended, and that as a result, intakes of some nutrients are ‘low enough to be of public health concern’, he points out.
“Specifically, the article cited as the source of evidence regarding EPA and DHA supplementation by the Nutrient Adequacy Subcommittee concluded that ‘National public health initiatives to increase omega-3 fatty acid consumption are needed; the working group believes that data are currently sufficient to indicate that intake of omega-3 fatty acids is suboptimal, and a national and international initiative should be launched to shift omega-3 fatty acid intake upward.”
While simply listing EPA and DHA on nutrition facts labels will not in itself boost intakes, he acknowledges, it will “go a long way to assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices”.
Technological advances have made adding lc omega-3s to foods and beverages easier
The FDA recently frustrated many players in the omega-3 industry by publishing a final rule prohibiting certain nutrient content claims about EPA and DHA on food labels on the grounds that no reference levels have been established for these nutrients.
However, there is still enthusiasm for adding long chain omega-3s to food and beverage products, with firms such as Cargill recently introducing a cost-effective ‘drop-in’ solution for food & beverage EPA/DHA fortification called IngreVita .
Meanwhile, Virun has developed patented technology enabling the inclusion of EPA+DHA (which are prone to oxidation, causing taste, odor and stability problems) in clean label shelf-stable foods and beverages at unprecedented levels.
According to GOED estimates, volumes of algal DHA used in infant formula rose in 2013, while volumes of EPA and DHA of marine origin used in other food products (primarily from fish oil, but also algal omega-3s) were fairly flat.
Click HERE to read all the comments in the docket on the FDA Nutrition Facts proposal.